Conversation The End Times?
by Sandy Fiedler

 

Elder and Youth often met in the park to talk. In the safe companionship of Elder, Youth quietly expressed fears and questions about life that nowhere else could he speak.

Today after settling down on the bench to watch children at play and to feel sunshine on their backs, Youth softly said, "Yesterday at church the preacher said that we are the last generation before Jesus comes back."

Youth shifted his position. "He said that America has gone bad. He cited the evidence: violence and immorality. He talked about recent natural disasters like earthquakes and the 1993 Mississippi River flood. Does he mean that because America goes down the tube, Jesus has to come back and end the whole world?"

Elder smiled and slowly shook his head. "Well, son, he certainly is giving America a great deal of credit for being God’s favorite nation. I mean, lots of bad things have happened in the history of the world. What is happening today in America breaks my heart, but it is not new to the history of mankind, just new to America.

"You see, our country, in its goodness, has been the exception in the history of the world. No other country had such a pure, unique foundation, making it a model that the world has never seen before or since.

"Let me clear a few things up about our nation’s beginning. The image you probably have of the Puritans, for example, is that they were stuffy and strict. The early Puritans, on the contrary, were known for their love of life and laughter, bright clothing, and enjoyment of hunting and even drink. They believed that every part of life personal, social, and government should be conducted by one standard. That standard was the Bible.

"So closely tied were the churches and politics in the colonial period that the Revolutionary War of 1776 was mockingly called by the British, ‘The Presbyterian Rebellion.’ This was long before the Baptists and Methodists became large denominations. The Calvinistic Presbyterian ministers fearlessly preached justice and right and wrong. A great number of ministers died in the war as colonial soldiers.

"By the mid-1800s, church people had withdrawn from government and politics because they thought it was evil. Without a standard by which everything could be measured, the Bible, what direction could politics go? Christians remained happily isolated until the school prayer question in the 1960s and the abortion issue in the 1970s.

"Two questions come to mind: 1. Is America’s deterioration enough to make Jesus come back? And 2. Why do good Americans, and we still have a lot of them left, do so little to help their nation turn around? Do they think that by retreating from the world, they can speed up the downhill slide and make Jesus hurry up?"

Elder stopped talking and looked like he wanted to cry.

Taking a deep, slow breath, he went on, "Son, there have always been trouble, wars, violence, immorality, and disasters in the world.

"When the Black Plague appeared in China in the fourteenth century, killing tens of millions of people, it spread westward across the civilized world, wiping out one-third of Europe. People thought it was the end of the world. Was that not bad enough to make Jesus come back? When Europe was ravaged in World War I and World War II and 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, was that not suffering enough?

"Right now Christians are being persecuted and killed by the thousands in China. Is China not important enough for Jesus to return for? In Afghanistan, in Cuba, in Africa, innocent people are suffering under poverty and cruel governments. Why is America more important than these nations?

"Moreover, there have always been earthquakes. Read your history, boy. We simply have more ways of detecting them now and more populated areas to be affected. Furthermore, the Mississippi River has always flooded. Read the 1884 book Huckleberry Finn where Mark Twain describes a flood of the river. I know Mark Twain wrote fiction, but when he wrote about the river, he wrote about real river conditions, and that was before the Corps of Engineers straightened out so many miles of the river to make it cooperate for man’s benefit. Now the river wants to go back to its natural meandering way.

"As I said earlier, the prosperity and goodness of America has been the golden exception to the history of the world! If we stand by and watch it destroy itself from within, then we deserve what we get. Hey," he added, "suffering and natural disasters might straighten some people out if they got scared enough, don’t you think?"

Youth smiled a little and said, "The preacher scared me when he said that Jesus would come soon, like it would be next year or something. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I want to have a chance to live my life."

"Son," said Elder, "don’t worry. The preacher means well but he doesn’t know when Jesus will come back. No one does. Jesus himself assured us of that. Most people who claim that the end is near have retirement plans and college savings for their children.

At the approach of the year 1000 A.D. people went wild, just knowing the end was at hand. I remember that someone predicted that the end would be in 1988 and then in 1989. The year 2000 is a nice round number that will bring out a lot of predictions, what with the Y2K computer glitch questions and all. Wait and see." He looked at Youth.

"Look toward tomorrow. Live a good life in the darkness of a nation that has lost its bearings. And, as far as the doomsayers go, if trouble and suffering come to us after we have lived right and fought the good fight, then so what? Nothing can sneak up and surprise God, can it? Not even death. Remember the little song, ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands’?"

Elder put his arm around Youth who could feel strength and warmth overflow into him. What a wonderful world, Youth thought. And it’s not over yet.

 

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